Delta Deanery brings 800 pilgrims
through the Holy Door
Eight hundred pilgrims; one Holy Door.
That was the scene Aug. 27 as pilgrims from the eight parishes of the Delta Deanery came, by bus and by car — but mostly by bus — to the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
They boarded buses before 8 a.m. at their parishes in East Contra Costa County, arriving at the front steps of the cathedral. Inside, a choir composed of musicians from all of the parishes practiced their music.
The gathering was the largest group to make the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Christ the Light for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, which began Dec. 8, 2015, and ends Nov. 20, 2016.
The deanery's parishes include St. Anthony, Oakley: Church of the Good Shepherd, Pittsburg; Immaculate Heart of Mary, Brentwood; Most Holy Rosary, Antioch; Our Lady Queen of the World, Bay Point; St. Anne, Byron; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Antioch; and St. Peter Martyr of Verona, Pittsburg.
Each parish was asked to bring its banner to the cathedral. Oscar and Zoila Jovel of Church of the Good Shepherd stood outside the cathedral, the banner of Church of the Good Shepherd between them. "We've had it a long time," Oscar Jovel said of the banner. The pilgrimage, he said, "gives us the chance to experience traditions."
It was also the opportunity to experience joy. Rev. Robert Rien, pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch coordinated the multiparish event. "It's great to see all of you," he told arriving pilgrims, greeting many of them with a welcome in Spanish, "Bienvenidos."
In addition to the early hour and distance, pilgrims didn't let obstacles get in their way. Hermanese Johnson of Good Shepherd Parish arrived with her wrist bandaged, just four days after surgery. She had needed some help with her hair and clothes the night before, she said, but "I couldn't miss it."
Pilgrims gathered at the foot of the cathedral's Pilgrims Path, near the corner of 21st and Harrison streets, behind their parish banners.
Ann Osuagwu, of the Nigerian community at Most Holy Rosary Parish, was among a group of women in traditional dress, waiting behind a banner. "We're all happy to be here," she said, adding "We are blessed to be part of it."
The pilgrims processed as many as a dozen abreast up the pathway, then narrowed to enter the Holy Door, no more than two by two, to give each one a chance to touch the door. Some sang as they walked. Pilgrims from St. Anthony Parish paused to pray, led by Rev. Luis Lopes, who was ordained just this year, before they passed through the door.
Rev. Mark Wiesner, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore and one of 1,000 priests worldwide commissioned by Pope Francis as "missionaries of mercy," was the principal celebrant and homilist. The priests of the deanery concelebrated.
Jesus' words in the Gospel — if someone strikes you, turn the other cheek, and give to everyone who asks — did not require historical context. They do offer, Father Wiesner said, "an extraordinary challenge."
"We are called to live not like we are citizens of the world but of the kingdom, where the law is always love," he said.
"We are the people that receive God's mercy; it falls upon us to bring it to others," he said.
Representatives of the parishes literally set the table for the liturgy of the Eucharist, placing a cloth on the marble altar, and putting pots of chrysanthemums, alternating pots of white and yellow, at its base.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the celebrants were followed by the pilgrims, who marched to their buses for the trip home to the joyous traditional South African music, "We Are Marching."
Some stayed behind a while to reflect, including Maira Rodriguez of St. Peter Martyr Parish, who brought her children to the celebration. "I want them to be closer to the Church," she said of the three in her arms and by her side. "Our priest was talking about the Holy Door opening."
She spoke of her daughter, Juliana. "She was very religious," Rodriguez said. People in many of the parishes in the deanery knew Juliana, who often went with her mother to pray the rosary.
Mother and daughter made many trips to Oakland for chemotherapy. At the cathedral, her mother said she feels close to Juliana, who died on Christmas Day.
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